Launch ex­pands other fron­tiers: lawyer

Nasa bal­loon could open up many ques­tions on NZ’s outer space

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By MAR­JORIE COOK

Nasa’s first bal­loon launch in New Zealand of­fers ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ki­wis to ex­plore the fron­tiers of science, law, tech­nol­ogy, ed­u­ca­tion and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, Christchurch lawyer Dr Maria Pozza says.

Pozza is a con­sul­tant with Helmore Ay­ers and spe­cialises in avi­a­tion and space law.

She ob­tained her masters de­gree and PhD at Otago Uni­ver­sity be­fore un­der­tak­ing fur­ther re­search at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity un­der a Lauter­pacht Vis­it­ing Fel­low­ship and at Lon­don’s In­sti­tute of Space Pol­icy and Law.

The Wanaka bal­loon launch opened up all sorts of ‘‘ex­cit­ing and in­ter­est­ing’’ ques­tions about where the bound­aries of air space and outer space started and fin­ished for New Zealand, she said.

Pozza said the de­mar­ca­tion line be­tween air space and outer space has never been for­mally de­fined within any in­ter­na­tional legal in­stru­ment, nor have sci­en­tists ever agreed upon an an­swer to the ques­tion.

‘‘It is go­ing to be very ex­cit­ing and re­ally in­ter­est­ing. I think this is the first step to­wards more and more tech­nol­ogy be­ing de­vel­oped . . . and New Zealand be­com­ing more space-faring as a coun­try,’’ she said.

Wanaka’s bal­loon is presently drift­ing at about 34km altitude and would be gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be in air space.

Outer space was usu­ally and ‘‘very in­for­mally’’ ac­cepted as start­ing about 100km altitude, but not all na­tions agreed, Pozza said. Air space and outer space law were ‘‘dif­fer­ent beasts’’, with air law con­cerned with sovereign rights and ter­ri­to­rial con­trol.

‘‘Many in­ter­na­tional treaties deal with air space. But the ma­jor­ity of treaties on outer space, their foun­da­tion rests upon the no­tion that space be­longs to no-one but is for ev­ery­one.’’

New Zealand has air space reg­u­la­tions but does not have any laws about what hap­pens in outer space.

Wanaka’s bal­loon would prob­a­bly be clas­si­fied as an ‘‘air space’’ ve­hi­cle. New Zealand, as the launch­ing state, could be held li­able if any­thing went wrong with it or its pay­load, but that de­pended on what sort of agree­ments had been reached with NASA, Pozza said.

An­other is­sue was dis­clo­sure to New Zealand about what the science pro­grammes con­tained.

You did not need per­mis­sion to con­duct sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments in outer space but did in air space, she ex­plained.

Pozza said it could be ex­pected an agree­ment about li­a­bil­ity and dis­clo­sure would have been reached prior to the Wanaka launch, in­di­cat­ing a very good in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ship be­tween the US and New Zealand.

As the two na­tions car­ried out more launches, more in­ter­est­ing ques­tions would arise that could lead to the devel­op­ment of sup­port­ing tech­nol­ogy in New Zealand and open up new ca­reer paths for peo­ple in­ter­ested in air space and outer space is­sues, she said.

Pozza’s de­ci­sion to study avi­a­tion and space law was prompted by dis­cov­er­ing sparse re­search on the topic in New Zealand.

‘‘I was do­ing my masters in In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies at Otago Uni­ver­sity and didn’t think there was much writ­ten on space so I thought, ‘Let’s write about that’. I wish I had a great story, like New­ton’s ap­ple land­ing on his head, but re­ally, I don’t.’’

Pozza re­searches and works in her spe­cial­ist field but also has a gen­eral prac­tice at Hel­mores Ay­ers, which fo­cuses on as­set own­er­ship struc­tur­ing, com­mer­cial law and prop­erty trans­ac­tions.

The Nasa bal­loon be­ing in­flated at Wanaka air­port.

Maria Pozza, avi­a­tion and space lawyer of Christchurch.

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